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Biesty, L,Galvin, S,Finucane, E,Healy, P,Devane, D,Conway, T
Can learning about trials be child's play? A qualitative exploration of the 'Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials' (START) initiative
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Trials RCTs Methodological research Qualitative research CLINICAL-TRIALS
Background The Health Research Board-Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) celebrates International Clinical Trials Day with the help of the younger members of our community through the Network's 'Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START)' initiative. START seeks to increase public awareness of randomised trials in Ireland. Launched in 2016, it asks children (8-12 years old) to conduct and report their very own fun randomised trial. The study reported in this paper sought to explore children and teachers perceptions and experiences of the START initiative. Methods We conducted eight, one-to one interviews with teachers and eight focus groups with 61 children who took part in the 2018 START initiative. Interviews and focus groups were recorded and transcribed and the data analysed using template analysis. Results The findings of this study highlight the benefits of participating in START and the areas of the initiative that required further attention. Teachers and children recalled the benefits of experiential learning associated with START and learning by doing encouraged a fun way of engaging with trial processes. By recalling all aspects of planning, conducting and reporting their trial, the children in this study demonstrated their awareness of the trial processes. The teachers suggested that START provides a valuable framework to contribute to key aspects of the primary school curriculum in Ireland. The experiences of these participants also provided recommendation for improving the programme for future START participants. Conclusions Increasing public awareness and understanding of randomised trials can help increase public engagement in trials. By educating children about the importance of trials and supporting them to 'learn by doing' by carrying out their own trial, the START initiative can contribute substantially to children's awareness and understanding of trial processes. Given that children are the public, the patients and the researchers of the future, initiatives such as START deserve attention.
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